Move Over Mr. Hamilton


200px-US10dollarbill-Series_2004AOn June 17th, the Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew announced that a woman will be joining or even replacing Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. Many people were speculating that Andrew Jackson would get the boot[i] from the $20 bill, considering some controversial happenings during his presidency (Reminder: Indian Removal Act, Trail of Tears)[ii]. However, it looks like the mystery woman will instead be joining Hamilton, America’s first Secretary of Treasury.

The $10 bill is ultimately a more convenient choice because in 2013 a redesign was deemed necessary to address current and future counterfeiting threats facing the bill.[iii] Furthermore, according to the Washington Post, [iv] Hamilton only has a little fewer than 2 million bills in circulation, whereas the popular $20 bill has around 8 billion and lasts almost twice as long.

This is the first time in over a century that a woman has been on United States’ paper money, and the new bill is being released in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote. The media has been going crazy over who the woman will be on the bill, taking polls and releasing short biographies about famous women who deserve to be on the bill. According to federal law, she must be dead to appear on U.S. currency and according to the new theme of the bill, she must be a champion for democracy.[v] However, the point really should not be which woman will be on the bill, but rather that a woman is there at all. “America’s currency makes a statement about who we are and what we stand for as a nation,” said Jack Lew, and when 50% of our country is not represented, it reflects poorly on our attempts at gender equality.[vi] Both genders see inequalities in the workplace and understand the need for change. Women are paid about 78 cents to the man’s dollar for equal work, according to Statistics released by the Bureau of Labor,[vii] and although this gap is decreasing, especially among younger generations, there is still a lot of work to be done. By putting a woman on the $10 bill, the treasury department is showing their support for woman in the economic sector. However, it is difficult to tell if this symbolic act will produce any substantial results for gender equality. The treasury department’s decision will hopefully spur conversation about the economic and social state of women in today’s world. This symbolic change could mean a lot in terms of readdressing the progress we have made as a country, and the work we still have to make in terms of closing the gap in gender equality.

Interestingly, the topic of a woman on the $10 bill has become increasingly controversial. Those supporting the change state that, according to the US 2013 Census, 50.8% of the United States population is female, which means around 161,979,384 people in total.[viii] They argue it is only fair that half our population receive at least a single representative on the American currency, as it will serve as a symbolic step towards gender equality. On the other side people argue that this is not a question about feminism or equality, but rather about history and tradition. As a woman entering the workforce, I strongly believe that economic equality is an important hurdle to overcome for true gender equality to exist. Whether the best vehicle for change is the federal government, local or state policy, or even cultural movements is yet to be determined. Though the addition of a woman to the $10 bill may not seem like a large step, it also seems like a promise from the Department of Treasury to Americans that they are dedicated to moving forward.

Tradition is changing! Paris is getting rid of the love locks on their most famous bridge that tourists have been coming to for years. Paris is the city of romance, but they are asking people to show their tradition of love in a different way because the locks are detrimental to their bridges and their city.[ix] Can we express our traditions in a different way too? Can we allow women to have a place in society with equal pay and equal representation? Thank you to the Treasury Department for promoting the conversation about gender equality, and we eagerly await your announcement later this year of who will be the female representative on the $10 bill.

Secretary Lew has the final say on who the woman will be, but he has made it clear that the public’s input will be important and valuable to his decision. Use the #The New10 hashtag to share your ideas for the bill!

EmmaEmma Clark is a senior double majoring in Public Policy & Leadership and Classics with a minor in Global Studies in Education at the University of Virginia. Her passion for education has come from a combination of policy work in the classroom and volunteer work out in the field. She is very excited to be interning with the Department of Government & External Affairs, and Community Impact at Wheelock College for the summer, experiencing education policy first hand.